It was thus that 15 year old Nakajima Muneyoshi
came to the house of Hon'ami Kohõ, a famous sword polisher
who was descended from the great family of polisher/appraisers,
and was one of the last of the family line. While he studied under
Hon'ami, Nakajima had the opportunity to work on many famous blades,
including a number from the Imperial collection. One of the highlights
for Nakajima during this time was to be allowed to polish the windows
in the blades that were currently being made by the Yasukuni Shrine
Before WWII, Nakajima had often gone to the Yasukuni
Shrine on his days off. At first, he just watched. Later, he helped
both forge and quench the swords that were being made there. He
commented later that he had learned almost as much listening to
the swordsmiths talk to his teacher Hon'ami Kohõ. They would
discuss the different processes of forging that they had used in
making a particular blade. This, coupled with his own observations
while opening a window, would prove invaluable to Nakajima's understanding
of the different methods of sword forging.
With the outbreak of WWII Nakajima left Japan
and went to China. He soon moved to Peking where he set up a shop
to make swords. Nakajima had a contract from the Japanese military
for three hundred military swords each month. He employed twelve
Chinese craftsmen, including two brothers who were swordsmiths.
Nakajima said that he and his men had to just about work around
the clock to produce the three hundred swords each month. They
would work on forging all of the blades and then do the quenching
on all three hundred in one night.
On rare occasions Nakajima would totally custom
make a complete sword for one of the Japanese military officers.
Not only would he forge and quench the blade properly, he would
also make a leather covered wooden saya instead of a metal one,
and the blade would get a proper polish as well. While in Peking
he also had many instances where he would have to do work on old
swords as well.